WILMINGTON, DEL. - While Don Duncan expects DuPont Dow Elastomers LLC to use new technologies to produce a variety of new thermoplastic products, he likewise expects those technologies to invigorate the company's existing products and their markets. DuPont Dow is the new, $1 billion company established April 1 by DuPont Chemical Co. of Wilmington and Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., to produce and market existing synthetic rubber and new elastomer products around the world. Duncan, the company's president and chief executive officer, shared his views for the future in an interview June 5 at his office in Wilmington.
The company combines Du-Pont's synthetic rubber technologies and products that are sold under the Nordel trade name with Dow's Engage polyolefin elastomer technologies and products.DuPont was a market leader in synthetic rubbers. Dow's elastomer technologies are based on metallocene catalysts used to produce thermoplastic elastomers.
``There is significant potential for other, new products using this technology,'' Duncan said. ``But I can't see a time now that our existing technology will go away.
``For instance: The hexadiene technology we use at our Beau-mont, Texas, plant [to make ethylene propylene terpolymers] has an unusual chemistry and unusual performance characteristics. As long as our customers demand those chemistries and characteristics, we will continue to make those products,'' Duncan said.
``We have gone to the heart of our parent companies, and pulled together these two segments. These are not peripheral businesses; they are businesses that are totally compatible and not overlapping,'' Duncan said.
``With DuPont's presence [in synthetic rubbers], the question was: How do you grow it?
``We concluded that we would, that we could grow at industry rates by adding new products and new technology. Traditionally, we would have done that ourselves.
``But why spend five to 10 years to develop technologies and products when we could merge with a competent partner and do it in two years?'' he asked.
Although it is starting its trade with $1 billion in sales, making it the largest joint venture launched by either of its parent companies, Duncan considers DuPont Dow a ``small'' start-up company.
``We extracted what we needed from Dow or from DuPont, bringing in people who are critical to the success of this company. We will leverage resources from our parents, and we will buy services from our parent companies.
``We have 2,500 full-time employees, but we also have more than 1,000 people working for us in leveraged services at our parent companies,'' he said.
However, Duncan said his company intends to be self-sufficient in research and development. DuPont Dow now has research laboratories dedicated to elastomers in Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and New Jersey, and in Switzerland and Japan.
``We are doubling the size of direct research spending on elastomer products compared with the expenditures [on elastomers] at DuPont, and [our efforts] are focused on elastomer products,'' he said.
However, DuPont Dow will continue to rely on research developments that could affect its business and products at both parent companies.
``DuPont has world-class fluorochemistry capabilities. A major raw material for us is fluorine monomers. We will keep an eye on DuPont research that we could use to make fluoroelastomers better and new.
``On the other side, Dow will continue to be a leader in catalyst technologies. ... We will take their developments and use them for our elastomer and polymer work,'' Duncan said.
Duncan said his company has established a three-tiered, complementary technical operation that combines internal R&D and technical engineering, to shorten the delivery time for new products.
DuPont Dow is evaluating two new products based on metallocene catalyst technology, and hopes to make them commercially available by the first half of 1997, Duncan said.
``Our belief is that there is a wide variety of other products that this technology will be suitable for. We are evaluating several in research and development, and we hope to launch several by the end of this decade,'' according to Duncan.
``Our principal objective here is to fully commercialize our Engage and Nordel products, and to do that as quickly as possible,'' he added.
In reaching for that objective, Duncan said he expects DuPont Dow to double its sales and its production capacity.